With little to play for in a season the Toronto Argonauts would like to forget, head coach Corey Chamblin will give his backups an opportunity Saturday afternoon against Ottawa.
Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson is expected to start but Dakota Prukop and Canadian Michael O’Connor are likely to get some second-half snaps in a game between 3-13 teams.
“We understand that where we are right now, it’s about evaluation,” Chamblin said.
Toronto turned in a decent effort in a 27-24 loss to Montreal last weekend, with Bethel-Thompson connecting on 35 passes for 342 yards. Ottawa, meanwhile, is coming off a 33-12 drubbing in Hamilton.
The Argos have dropped four of their last five games, with the lone win a 28-21 victory against Ottawa.
“It’s been a wild season,” Bethel-Thompson said Friday after a team walk-through. “There’s been so much hardship and so much adversity and so much losing, really, at the end of the day.
“If we won a couple games here and there, we’re in the playoff hunt right now and it’s a totally different vibe.”
General manager Jim Popp was let go earlier this month and replaced by Mike (Pinball) Clemons. The moves came after a season low point on Oct. 5 when the B.C. Lions shellacked the Argos 55-8 to eliminate them from playoff contention.
“That West Coast trip was a nightmare,” Bethel-Thompson said. “It was pretty much a nightmare all the way through from beginning to end.”
The season also can’t end soon enough for the slumping Redblacks. Ottawa enters its road finale on a nine-game losing skid.
Argonauts receiver Derel Walker is out again this week and Toronto placed defensive back Abdul Kanneh and running backs James Wilder Jr. and Chris Rainey on the one-game injured list ahead of Saturday’s game.
A.J. Ouellette is the lone running back set to dress for Toronto. Fullbacks Declan Cross and Regis Cibasu will also be active.
A lunch bag giveaway is planned for fan appreciation day at BMO Field. Spectators may need a program and lineup card too as neither roster will be brimming with household names.
“They have to make sure they’re not counting the days, that they’re making the days count,” Chamblin said of his players. “There’s a lot of good things, this is professional football. You get a chance to play it, you get a chance to coach it.
“There’s a lot of good things to learn that will serve your career today and moving forward.”
Prukop made an appearance in Week 7 against Edmonton, completing eight of 13 passes for 68 yards with two interceptions.
“We’re at a point in the season where there’s a lot of hungry guys on the field,” said the third-year pro. “There’s guys trying to earn jobs, there’s guys trying to keep jobs, there’s new faces coming in trying to prove what they’re worth.”
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O’Connor, a native of Orléans, Ont., will be behind centre for the first snaps of his rookie season. He spent four years at the University of British Columbia and led the Thunderbirds to a Vanier Cup in 2015.
“I’m confident in my reads and I know where to go with the ball,” he said. “Just be able to stay calm, keep my composure and go out there and sling it.”